Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Culinary archaeology

Millet noodles in Late Neolithic China

A remarkable find allows the reconstruction of the earliest recorded preparation of noodles.


Noodles have been a popular staple food in many parts of the world for at least 2,000 years1, although it is debatable whether the Chinese, the Italians or the Arabs invented them first. Here we analyse a prehistoric sample of noodles contained in a well preserved, sealed earthenware bowl discovered in the Late Neolithic2,3,4 archaeological site of Lajia in northwestern China. We identify millet as the source of the abundant seed-husk phytoliths and starch grains present in the vessel. This shows that the conversion of ground millet flour into dough that could be repeatedly stretched into long, thin strands for the preparation of boiled noodles was already established in this region 4,000 years ago.

Your institute does not have access to this article

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Late Neolithic noodles from China.


  1. Hou, G. Adv. Food Nutr. Res. 43, 143–193 (2001).

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences & Qinghai Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology Archaeology 12, 12–25 (2002).

  3. Yang, X. Y., Xia, Z. K. & Yi, M. L. Chinese Sci. Bull. 48, 1877–1881 (2003).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Institute of Archaeology Archaeology 12, 58–76 (2003).

  5. Ball, T. B., Gardner, J. S. & Anderson, N. Am. J. Bot. 86, 1615–1623 (1999).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Pearsall, D. M. Paleoethnobotany: A Handbook of Procedures 2nd edn (Academic, San Diego, 2000).

    Google Scholar 

  7. Lu, H. Y. & Liu, K. B. Div. Distrib. 9, 73–87 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Piperno, D. R., Weiss, E., Holst, I. & Nadel, D. Nature 430, 670–673 (2004).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Fujita, S., Sugimoto, Y., Yamashita, Y. & Fuwa, H. Food Chem. 55, 209–213 (1996).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Shelach, G. J. World Prehist. 14, 363–413 (2000).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences & Qinghai Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology Archaeol. Cult. Relics 2, 85–91 (2004).

  12. Ren, S. N. Archaeology 1, 37–49 (1995).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Houyuan Lu.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Lu, H., Yang, X., Ye, M. et al. Millet noodles in Late Neolithic China. Nature 437, 967–968 (2005).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing